Trump congratulates Putin on landslide election victory

US President Donald Trump confirmed he called Putin to congratulate him, and said the two were due to meet soon 

US President Donald Trump has congratulated Vladimir Putin on his landslide victory in Sunday’s election, breaking a taboo among western leaders in appearing to endorse the Russian leader’s re-election.

Speaking at the White House, Trump confirmed that he called Putin to “congratulate him on his electoral victory”, and said that the two would meet in the “not so distant future” to discuss limiting a growing arms race, Ukraine and Syria.

Putin was re-elected for his fourth term as president, with more than 76% of the votes. However, there was no strong challenger as main opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, was barred from the race.

European observers said that while the poll was conducted efficiently, there was a lack of genuine choice.

Trump however did not mention Russia’s interference in the 2016 US election or the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, the former double agent targeted with a nerve agent in the UK.

Former US presidential candidate John McCain was quick to criticize Trump for his failure to raise allegations of widespread voter irregularities.

 “An American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections” McCain said in a statement. “And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election to determine their country’s future, including the countless Russian patriots who have risked so much to protest and resist Putin’s regime.”

The Kremlin said the conversation between the US and Russian presidents was "constructive and business-like", adding that Russia hoped to "overcome problems" that had arisen between the two nations.

EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker also wrote a letter of congratulations to the Russian leader on Tuesday, pledging to "always be a partner" in improving security co-operation with the Kremlin.

"I have always argued that positive relations between the European Union and Russian Federation are crucial to security of our continent," he said in the letter, which he shared on Twitter.

The leader of the UK Conservative Party's group in the European Parliament, MEP Ashley Fox, said Juncker's letter was "disgraceful" and "nauseating" in its "failure to mention Russia's responsibility" in the attack on Skripal and his daughter.

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